Letter from the President – Spring at 1st U

Happy Spring, Everyone!

I made the most of our beautiful, Chicago winter and COVID-19-related shutdowns by purchasing crampons and snowshoes and hitting the trails in the Cook County Forest Preserves. That investment in my fitness, recreation and mental well-being was one of my best moves ever.

But I don’t mind saying that I am thrilled that Spring is here and beckoning me outdoors once again for warm weather activities. The daffodils, Siberian Squill, and snow drops blooming in my yard signal new beginnings and as yet to be discovered possibilities. Spring is energizing. 

We’re experiencing new beginnings at First U, too, and April will be a busy month. First, we are so happy to see each other as we return in-person to services. Most weeks, a few more of us return (don’t worry—zooming’s still ok) and every week that we’ve been open we’ve welcomed new visitors. We’re engaging with visitors and inviting them to our new Welcome Luncheons. We’re re-engaging with each other at in-person Coffee Hour and Zoom Social Hour, in new classes, First Forums and Children’s RE. 

You’ve already begun to experience some of our new beginnings and you’ll travel the path with your fellow First U-ers as we move forward and grow. We know we cannot remain the same—we have to go well beyond sustaining our church, to expanding our church. Your time and talents will be required.

We’ve restarted the Green Sanctuary Committee with an expanded focus on other environmental and climate change issues as well, and seek ways to better support our other social justice activities, such as our criminal justice group. Many newcomers judge whether or not to join us based on our commitment and involvement in social justice. The Membership Committee has restarted with a dual focus on engaging present members and attracting new members, both of which require us to build our programs. 

We reimagined our Religious Education program and hired our first Lifespan Director of Religious Education, Elizabeth McCreless, to bring the same creative energy and innovation to adult RE as to our kids’ RE. We maintained our commitment to our music program by hiring a new Director of Music, Adam O’Dell, who will provide a rich, diverse music program and rebuild the Choir. Elizabeth, Adam and our Interim Minister, Rev. Don, along with your board of trustees, will all lay out some solid, new ideas this month to expand First U through our RE, music and new membership outreach initiatives that bring new people to us and extend First U into the community.  

This year, as we enter our search for a new, permanent Minister we will be presenting a dynamic, committed congregation to candidates.

Believe me, so much more is happening that I can’t detail here, but I will at least say THANK YOU to all the volunteer leaders and participants who kept small groups meeting for the past two challenging years.

A commitment to growth comes with a cost. We will provide more detail on proposed initiatives and their costs, and we will ask you to help support them through the Annual Pledge Drive. We live out our vision and commitment through the pledge drive. Accordingly, our theme this year is INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE. 

Did I mention that April will be a busy month?

On behalf of the board and staff at First U, I wish you a healthy Spring!

With love,
Margie Gonwa
First U Board of Trustees President